Our history is full of accounts of horrible battles, bloodthirsty warriors, ruthless kings and queens who sought more power and territory.
The ancient people who once lived at Wupatki were different. Representing a number of different cultures, they created a wonderful, prospering community in a very harsh environment. Wupatki serves as an ancient symbol of how people from various nations can interact and work as one and create a peaceful society.
About 900 years ago, a very large volcano erupted in Northern Arizona. The eruption caused the Sinagua people to leave their homes in the region we today know as Flagstaff.
The Sinagua were the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians of the Four Corners area, including the Hopi Indians, who refer to them as Hisatsinom which means “those who lived long ago”.
The volcano eruption formed the Sunset Crater and changed history in this region. Volcanic lava and cinder debris destroyed homes and made it impossible for Sunset Crater community to grow crops. People had to relocate to nearby areas.
Following the Sunset Crater eruption, ancient people discovered that farming in Flagstaff became easier because small layers of cinder and ash blanketing the northeastern lands helped keep the soil moist.
As a result of this, the region around the volcano became a melting pot of different Southwest cultures, including the Anasazi from the east and north, the Hohokam from the south, and the Mogollon from the southeast. All of these groups and more set up farming communities next to the less-sophisticated Northern Sinagua people, who had been living near Sunset Crater before the eruption.
Instead of smaller scattered pithouses, the new agricultural community now built large multi-level pueblos.
The tallest and largest of the pueblos was Wuptaki and it was constructed by a collection of several different prehistoric cultures. The name Wupatki derives from a Hopi word meaning “tall house”.
Wuptaki had multistory dwellings that contained more than 100 rooms and housed perhaps 150 people. A number storage rooms were also built.
The circular ruin at Wupatki resembles a great kiva, the lowest structure in Wupatki and a subterranean structure where people gathered and performed their religious ceremonies.
The Pueblo Indians were concerned and aware of the importance of weather changes. Although the volcanic moisture in the terrain made farming less of a challenge, the Indians still often performed religious ceremonies and asked the spirits to bring rain and good fortune to their lands.
People who lived at Wuptaki represented different cultures, but they all interacted peacefully with each other in a harsh environment. The Wupatki people also constructed a ventilation system that allowed them to build fires within their homes. This was done by placing wooden beams and cover the ceilings with timber.
The roofs no longer exist, but these ancient building techniques were quite ingenious nevertheless. Despite the effects of weathering many components of the solid Wupatki dwellings remain intact.
The Wupaki people, especially the Hopi considered the place to be a highly energized “spot of power”. According to Hopi traditions, Sunset Crater in Northern Arizona is a sacred mountain where angry gods once threatened to destroy evil people with its volcanic fire.
One reason why Wupatki was considered sacred is the blowhole that researchers found at the site. Blowholes are openings in the earth where water-cooled air rushes out when the air pressure below ground is greater than that above. Pueblo Indians held a “breathing cave,” that sends negative ionized air rushing through it very sacred.
Before Wupatki was abandoned in 1250, it served as a meeting place where different cultures exchanged ideas in the ceremonial ball court and traded goods to meet their needs. Tribes from the Hohokam tradition who were living in the southern region brought shells, salt, and cotton, and the communities of the Ancestral Puebloan tradition traded copper and turquoise. Among those who traded at Wupatki were the Sinagua Indians from nearby pueblos, Navajo families, and other ancestral Puebloans whose descendants still live nearby.
There is not much left of Wuptaki, except some ancient ruins, and they are sacred to the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo people.
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer
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